WHAT'S UP with Bay Area mayors? We've got disinterested in Oakland and not ready for prime time in San Francisco, but Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis may have trumped his more recognizable colleagues with what could be classified in the best-case scenario as ignorance run amok.
It would not surprise me if somewhere Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom were toasting Davis, whose verbal faux pas has overshadowed their recent lackluster endeavors.
Davis recently made national news by conflating his understanding of democracy and theocracy to publicly demonstrate his unequivocal homophobia.
In an interview with The New York Times about the tension between the faith and gay communities, Davis said, "They're (gays) committing sin and that sin will keep them out of heaven ... . But you don't hate the person. You hate the sin that they commit."
Predictably, the mayor apologized with the proverbial fall back phrase: my words were taken out of context.
I will accept that if Davis would share the proper context to understand: "They're committing sin and that sin will keep them out of heaven."
But when told that his comments might be problematic during his New York Times interview Davis responded: "That means that they (gays) have a problem, and not me. I'm just as passionate about my faith as someone is about the Oakland Raiders football team."
In this light, to believe
The logical conclusion that one derives from reading Davis' rudimentary theological utterances is that gays are going to hell.
The notion that one hates the sin and not the sinner is not found anywhere in the Bible. It is nothing more than a convenient tool to justify one's disdain for individuals or groups they do not understand.
Davis clearly does not understand the deeply held notion of maintaining a wall of separation between church and state. Though not literally expressed in the Constitution, it has been a guiding principle since the nation's inception.
In the United States, freedom of religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right provided in the First Amendment, supporting individual and community.
But at no time does it include allowances for elected officials to convey publicly that they do not understand the parameters around which those freedoms exist.
Speaking of sin, Davis has committed an unpardonable one for a public official by allowing his private morality to bleed into his public morality.
The privately held moral principles that Davis embraces are part of his personal free will, but they cannot be the basis for how he governs in the public morality. Davis risks giving his theological teachings an inordinate amount of influence over the public office he holds.
The second offense derived from Davis' comments is an unwitting admission that he is unwilling or unable to serve all of the people of Vallejo. Does Davis even know the width of the disparaging net he has cast onto the residents of his city?
Though Davis' subsequent statement suggests he could serve all the people, they came on the heels of his having already admitting he could not. How magnanimous of Davis to admit that he could indeed serve all the people, including those predestined for hell.
In Davis' untrained theological discourse does heaven post a "no vacancy" sign only for gays or is it there for anyone who commits sin? If it is the latter, Davis' theology may have ruled out everyone in Vallejo admittance into the pearly gates — including himself.
What is the compelling reason for Davis to remain in office? How does he regain the confidence of those he's already dispatched to the eternal lake of fire?
In fairness, Davis is the latest in what appears to be an unceasing flow of unenlightened sources portraying the Christian faith in the public conversation as a monolithic device for hatred and exclusion, when it only requires a cursory reading of the gospel narratives to see its emphasis is placed on the opposite.
The mere fact that Davis did not know that some would find his statements offensive before he said them is more than enough fodder for a recall. Unless, of course, I am guilty, like others before me, of taking Davis' words out of context.
Byron Williams is a contributing columnist for Bay Area News Group-East Bay. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 510-208-6417.